European trade negotiations branded undemocratic and dangerous

Trade agreements reached by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva this week have been heavily criticised by Friends of the Earth (FoE) and branded as undemocratic and a threat to the environment.

The grassroots organisation accused governments involved in the WTO agreement of turning a blind eye to potential environmental and social implications. Spokesperson for FoE Europe Alexandra Wandel said:

"Governments are trading away our environment at the WTO. With this deal even more environmentally and socially sensitive sectors will be liberalised. Corporate lobby groups will be the big winners, the environment and the poor the big losers."

A major concern was also still the Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) agreement, under which developing countries would face losing the use of national policies to promote development, according to Ms Wandel. She also said the agreement would further deepen the de-industrialisation crisis, accelerating poverty and unemployment, and harm the environment by forcing them to overuse water supplies and rely heavily on unsustainable and harmful exports of natural resources (see related story).

However, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy believed that the agreements reached at Geneva would deliver growth and development, bringing mutual benefits to all countries involved: "This decision shows that when Europe stands united we can punch our weight to the benefit of the entire trading community, especially for developing countries."

Franz Fischler, EU Agriculture Commissioner, also insisted that the agreement would have nothing but positive effects: "This deal will boost the world economy, farm trade and the opportunities for poorer countries. It also ensure that rich countries will follow the EU on its reform path. EU farmers will now have a clear perspective and developing countries will see better market access and less unfair competition."

But according to David Waskow from FoE US, the negotiations in Geneva were secretive and many countries were barred from key negotiating sessions: "The WTO process is completely undemocratic and this framework agreement is the result. If the WTO proceeds on the course just laid out, these negotiations will pose a serious threat to people and the environment around the world."

Head of Oxfam's international Geneva office Celine Charveriat also felt that the WTO agreements had much room for improvement: "The results of this meeting fall far short of what is needed to reform world trade rules so that they work for the poor. The lives and jobs of millions of people depend on these talks but rich countries are still forcing developing countries to adopt a strategy of damage limitation."

By Jane Kettle



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